Transfer students on breaking into Dordt culture

Anna Veltkamp- Staff Writer

Working your way up from the bottom is a frustrating struggle, made more so if you’ve already got two years of college experience and still have to start from scratch. Transfer students are all too familiar with this struggle. What makes it more difficult for them, though, is having to break into an entirely new culture as well.

Universally, being a transfer student is like getting to be a freshman all over again, but this time it’s on your own. No one is there to hold your hand; no one is there to show you the ropes of a new college. And, at Dordt, no one is there in the beginning to explain the subtleties of Dordt culture.

What exactly is Dordt culture? Seth Siebersma describes it as the expectation of students to “have a particular belief system – it’s not mandatory, but it’s expected.” Much of the student body at Dordt shares some tie to the college – whether it be alumni relations, church association, school connections, or you name it. These ties mean that much of Dordt shares similar backgrounds.

For many transfer students, this fact creates a disconnect from the majority of the student body. Katy Wall describes it as feeling like she doesn’t “fit in.”

“[It’s] Not like I don’t belong here,” Wall said. “But that I don’t fit into this family.”

Feeling ostracized because of age, as well as religious background or a lack thereof, is a problem that transfer students across the country face, even at Dordt.

Elizabeth Bouwkamp points out that it seems as though there are “underlying things to say in class that are okay, and things that are not. And that can be hard.”

The Walls agreed that these barriers were an issue in settling into student life. Even when Dordt culture gets confusing, they “don’t want to insult anyone, but [we] want to know.”

Though transfer students are as new as freshmen, they’re generally expected to be more independent. The “go-getters” tend to have easier transitions. Bouwkamp advises transfer students to get involved and find a friend group. Even if “you don’t want to force yourself in because they’re friends already – just ask.” Learning the ropes of a new culture, such as Dordt’s, is much easier if you’ve got people to talk it out with.

While there is no single solution, Dordt culture can be addressed in many ways such as these. Siebersma points out that for everyone “it is a state of mind, or mentality…be accepting.” It is not just “outsiders” who need to be accepting of Dordt culture, but those who are a part of it, as well.

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